Due to a last minute swerve away from the original plan…I find myself back at the Lion + Lamb for Enclosures, Elsewhere a painting show that takes a clip from a John Clare poem as its starting point. The intriguing thesis sketched out by artist and curator James Fisher in a discussion around the work elided Clare’s return from the asylum in High Beech near Epping to his home near Peterborough a deluded walk of four days with his interest in, and opposition to, the Enclosures Act that parcelled up the agricultural land and in another twist introduces the idea of Elsewhere in a fascination with the circumstances and contexts surrounding Schubert’s song cycle, Winterreise. Though these antecedents are important to the curator the works in the show can be considered outwith the thesis however at several junctures in examining the work some echoes of these hightide moments of the romantics do come back to haunt one’s consideration of the works on show.
None more so perhaps than in the case of Paula Kane. Her Copper Tree is amongst the most delicate of pictures on display with a deftness of handling and knowing references to the romantics that recall say Dahl for example. Her other piece in the show is a drawing that she described herself as a landscape we might feel we know but of course we cannot as it is entirely imagined…though the wan and watery light that filters through the trees and illuminates the space seems all too real.
If Kane’s Copper Tree exhibits considerable craft (an aspect of this exhibition that is underlined in much of the selection) then Andrew Cranston‘s Fair Is Foul might be taken for cack handed if one didn’t know of his pedigree. In this tree paint is essentially playing a role as proxy for itself. A big gloop is situated in his typically claustrophobic space though ostensibly it is a landscape (after all it has a clear horizon line, that as discussion convenor Juan Bolivar pointed out is rather a rarity in a show ostensibly devoted to landscapes). It is a picture that repays hard looking at and, despite it being so curiously fangled, a rather spectacularly good one.
The show as a whole is hard to fathom at many junctures with intriguing and elusive images that incorporate such diverse genres as portraiture in the case of Simon Burton‘s Divine to near total abstraction in Fisher’s own case. His Jenny Nettles suggests that MC Escher may have got himself organised a bit, tidied up his act and learnt his painting craft…the geometries meticulously and fastidiously played out on top of, and intermingled, in a gorgeous ground. This painting got at the ideas the artist articulated in his introduction to the show in an elegant and yet quite visceral manner. Quite how the picture plays out the story of the Scots lassie of the old fiddle tune or the daddy long legs that takes the title for its nickname or even whether the artist is making reference to these (a spider’s web?) is up for grabs though I doubt there is anything left to chance here. In Burton’s picture the subject, a miner, is emerging from the gloom (more claustrophobia) in a wraithlike manner, with tentative, sensitive handling akin, I felt, to much of Leonard McComb‘s work (in my book quite a compliment!).
Elusive is a good epithet too when considering Sarah R Key‘s painting The Second Novelty At Square Pier in which a structure that might be taken for a watchtower owes as much to a medieval torture device (as the artist explained) and is situated in another spectacularly rendered ground that also contains what might or might not be a portal to another place…the ‘elsewhere’ of the show’s title perhaps.
Amongst the other pictures here Peter Ashton-Jones particularly intrigues with The Edge , a painting with yet more dark, gloomy claustrophobic space… Though miraculously as one moves away from the canvas there is a hint of light…that promises maybe some redemption if we can just take those few steps further away from the thicket depicted. His other canvas Paper Aeroplane is just plain wacky though Fisher suggested a kind of parallel with a Bonnard in which the artist’s hands appear holding the sketchbook in which the picture beyond is being created, the space between the subject and its creator compacted…but then again here we are talking paper aeroplane that conceals the landscape beyond and may or may not be the artists hands that made or even are holding it.
Great grounds are a feature too of Paul Rosenbloom‘s contributions to this exhibition, though in his case the four Trace canvases repeat a set of motifs that are far removed, at least for this viewer, from their origins that I imagine may be rooted in geological material of some sort. In these paintings I felt that they might be models for larger works…a different kind of ‘elsewhere’ maybe? Joe Fan‘s two inclusions were an interesting counterpoint to most of the rest of the exhibit. One a drawing, the other ‘a sculpture’, and the parentheses are important here for this curious little tower of oil paint entitled Midnight In Jerusalem we discovered is a process object, quite literally the remnant scrapings from the palette (and not ‘normally’ considered a work by the artist himself). Apparently inspiration occasionally to Cranston the work was an enigmatic offering that sits alone and adrift in the space reminding us of the act of painting perhaps, those solitary hours wrestling with the ‘stuff’. Rosebud, Fan’s small drawing showed us a figure floating in that most constrained of ‘landscape’ spaces, a snowglobe. Laden with references and allusions to Kane, Welles, and the film and its myriad of interpretations this modest little conte drawing is another delight.
I struggled a little with the one other work in the exhibition Kate Belton‘s Mutation. Not for quality but rather because this piece had for me something of a post pop sensibility and mixed photographic and cut out and collaged elements that used silhouettes and graphic devices in a more decorative way. Perhaps the intention was to play with, and privilege, a very different kind of making, in which case it certainly succeeded, but for me the work seemed a little out of place in this selection. But then again as the curator suggests in his press statement “the works in this show aim to exploit tensions between two territories – the painting and the site, which are not always landscapes per se”…
nor paintings, drawings, sculptures, figurative or abstract per se either…or elsewhere…
Enclosures, Elsewhere runs till next Saturday 19th April…pub opening hours…cut along and have a drink and check it out!